The Washington Times - May 3, 2013, 03:38PM

Mike Green didn’t call the bank shot. It wasn’t like the Washington Capitals defenseman figured the puck would go off the boards behind the net and right to Alex Ovechkin for a power-play goal in Game 1 Thursday night against the New York Rangers.

But with Rangers penalty killers willing to throw their bodies in front of every shot and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist able to stop almost anything he sees, Green had to try something.


“I intentionally shot wide to miss the blocked shot, but I was just trying to put it on net, maybe hit his [pads] and bounce out,”he said. “Missed.”

Green didn’t seem ready to take credit as a visionary, but with New York’s shot-blocking prowess, the Caps power play might need to get a little creative to have success in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Coach Adam Oates and his players insist they won’t change much to combat the Rangers’ aggressiveness, though, instead aiming to hone the NHL’s best power play.

“I think we got to stick with it,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “We’ve got to work the puck movements a little bit better and get those shots through, I think. That’s the biggest key and then hopefully it will go in.”

Green and Ovechkin teamed up Thursday night to ensure the Caps wouldn’t come up empty on the power play after beginning 0-for-3. The unit that converted 26.8 percent of the time during the regular season was a mess early on, as turnovers turned into a handful of short-handed chances for the Rangers.

Center Mike Ribeiro blamed the sloppiness on poor zone entries.

“I think one time me at the blue [line], one time Nicky went to Greenie,” Ribeiro said. “One time was Ovi missed his shot. It was more us that didn’t execute what we were supposed to do, and they kind of just had scoring chances out of that after that.”

Right wing Troy Brouwer wondered if the Rangers had more opportunities short-handed than the Caps had on the power play, at least until things clicked in the second period. Pre-scouting showed the kind of aggressiveness the Rangers feature on the penalty kill, but it was obvious how careful Washington’s power-play performers have to be when moving the puck around.

“Especially when we enter the zone,” Backstrom said. “You’ve got to be aware of it because when they got the puck they’re going for the goals, that’s something we talked about and we’ve got to make sure we take care of the puck a little bit better.”

That’s a concern as far as the Rangers going the other way. The Caps also need to figure out a way to get pucks on Lundqvist amid a flurry of penalty killing.

“They press you hard. They’re desperate. They block shots,” Brouwer said. “You can see them diving all over the middle of the ice when we had a couple looks there, but it’s part of their plan.”

It’s a plan everyone is well-aware of. The solution, it seems, is patience.

“I think when they block shots and go down, you need to be more patient with it and fake a few times,” Ribeiro said. “Obviously you want to fake them out. Teams that go down, a lot of times you get out of your position being down on the ice. It’s plays that Greenie can make. Just keep your head up and find the open man after that.”

That’s what made Green’s unintentional yet intentional play so smart. It was an adjustment on the fly, without prior practice and it got the job done.

“Maybe freeze Lundqvist a little bit,” Backstrom said. “I don’t know if he was trying to bounce it off the board or not, but it was a good play.”

Doing the same thing in Game 2 Saturday afternoon or beyond may not work, as John Tortorella’s Rangers adjust. In the ongoing chess match that is a playoff series, Green was careful to say Friday that he’s “not going to give away any secrets.”

“We know their habits as far as blocking shots, it’s just a matter of getting your head up and being smarter,” Green said. “You’ve got to give them credit they do a good job blocking. … If you can almost [force] them to go down, then it creates an opening, so we’ll see.”

Maybe it’s not that much of a secret, though.

“You know what, they’re very good at [blocking shots],” Oates said. “That’s one of their strengths. To me our half-wall guys and Ribs and Greenie, they’re our quarterbacks. And it’s going to happen. The puck comes right back to them and they do it again. The quarterback gets the ball all the time. And we try to work on the reads and try and keep their minds fresh. And the Rangers that’s one of their strengths. But it’s going to happen.”

And, unless the Caps go colder than they did in the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens three years ago, they’ll score more goals on the power play before this series is over.

“I don’t think we have to change a whole lot,” Ribeiro said.